Nebraska Football: Breaking Down Nebraska's Spot in the BCS Rankings
On Sunday, the first BCS rankings were released (h/t ESPN). Unsurprisingly, Nebraska was nowhere to be found.
Nebraska was rated No. 21 going into last Saturday's game against Ohio State. After the 63-38 drubbing it took at the hands of the Buckeyes, it was no surprise that NU fell out of the Top 25 leading into the first BCS ranking.
So with Nebraska's failure to appear in the BCS poll, what can we learn about where it stands in college football?
The Benefit of the Doubt is Gone
It should have been disturbing enough for Nebraska fans when their team lost on the road to UCLA by only six points and dropped from No. 16 to completely out of the AP poll. It was less surprising, but no less disappointing, to see Nebraska drop out of the AP poll after the Ohio State loss.
So why has Nebraska lost the benefit of the doubt with national pollsters? In large part, because the 2012 losses fit in with the narrative the Cornhuskers set in 2011. When put on the big stage last year, on the road, Nebraska's once-vaunted defense was torched by Wisconsin, Michigan and South Carolina. Coming into the season, the narrative was that the defense—led by defensive wizard Bo Pelini as head coach—needed to improve for them to make headway.
Against UCLA, even in a close loss, Nebraska gave up a staggering amount of yardage. And against Ohio State, viewers would have been hard pressed to see a difference between the 2011 Cornhuskers and the 2012 squad.
As a result, the 2012 losses were amplified by the similarities with the 2011 squad, making it much easier for less-frequent viewers of Nebraska football to dismiss the team as stagnant or declining. Thus, Nebraska dropped nine slots out of the AP poll after a six-point loss on the road.
The Conference Isn't Going To Provide Much Help
So how many B1G teams are there in the first BCS rankings? Well, the same as the number of teams from the Gateway Conference, where my wife's alma mater of Northern Iowa plays FCS football.
In other words, none.
The B1G did itself no favors in the non-conference season, notching no wins of note and having ugly losses from Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, and Nebraska. As a result, the perception of the B1G is as a conference in decline. The only teams that have impressed from the B1G are Ohio State and Penn State (after a terrible start), the two teams ineligible to be ranked in the BCS standings.
If that perception has taken hold nationally, then whatever happens in-conference for B1G teams like Nebraska really won't matter. If an underachieving team beats another underachieving team, it will be hard for that win to garner any traction on a national scale. So don't look for any huge benefit for Nebraska in BCS standings to come.
It Doesn't Really Matter
Yes, the Children of the Corn aren't happy to see Dear Old Nebraska U unranked in the BCS. But remember this: The BCS has one purpose, and one purpose only—the BCS is the tool used to select which two teams will play for the BCS National Championship.
That's it. That's the list, as Tony Kornheiser would say.
At 4-2, even the most rabid of Nebraska fans would acknowledge that the team is not going to play for a national title in 2012. (So much for that $20 I put down at Caesar's Palace in March.)
But Nebraska has plenty of other goals left to achieve. Win a B1G division and get to the B1G Championship Game. Win the B1G and finally be able to put something up after "1999" on the list of conference championships that adorn the West Stadium. Get to the Rose Bowl. Get to any BCS bowl game.
All of those are goals that have eluded Nebraska under Pelini's tenure, and many are goals that have eluded it for over a decade. Accomplishing some or all of these goals in 2012 would be viewed by most fans and observers as progress for Nebraska under Pelini, and its spot in the BCS will have no bearing on whether those goals are accomplished.
So, Nebraska is at the midpoint of the 2012 season and currently control their own destiny. Sure, Nebraska fans would love to see it get some national recognition. But if Nebraska takes care of business on the field in the next six games, the BCS ranking will come.
Thankfully, it will come as a result of the Cornhuskers' success.
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